Sunday, 4 October 2020

So there ah am standin at the bus-stop mindin ma ain business when he brushes past me an stoaps at th'ither end o the shelter, ah wis waitin oan the number 16 fae Oxgangs, ah'd feenished daein ma stairs fer the day an ah'd a lot tae be gettin oan wi afore ah had tae get ready tae go oot so ah'm lookin tae see where the bus is an here is he no lookin back at me, ah caught his een fer jist a second, ye ken how it is, an then ah looked awa an by the time ah looked back he's turned his heid awa but ah kept lookin efter that an ah wis awfy taken wi his een, how fast they were, they were aw ower the road an they gied him a shifty look like he wis bein chased or hunted an he wis lookin fer the nearest exit but we were standin at a bus-stop so that couldnae be it, mibbe he wis oan the lookoot fer somebody but he couldnae find them, ah dinne ken, but they had me wonderin aw the same, so ah'm wonderin aboot his een an watchin an here the bus comes along an he gets oan ahint me, but ah sat inside an he went up top...

So there ah am daein ma messages in the store, mindin ma ain business, when suddenly ah see him wi his basket up th'ither end o the breakfast cereals aisle, ah wis lookin fer some All-Bran cos ah like tae be regular, in fact ah think a had a box o it in ma hand an ma ither hand wis oan ma trolley when ah saw him lookin at me, ah looked intae his een fer jist a second, ken, jist long enough tae see them twinkle an then ah looked doon at ma All-Bran as it tumbled intae ma trolley in slow-motion an by the time ah looked up he wis steppin oot o sicht at the end o the Cornflakes, so ah'm aff an runnin an of course ah wid hae tae hae the trolley wi the wonky wheel, aye happens tae me, an by the time ah've wiggled an squeaked ma way up tae the Cornflakes he's awa, couldnae find him onywhere in the entire store ah wis up an doon thae aisles fer ages...
So there ah am standin up at the dancin mindin ma ain business waitin in a line when he brushes past me, an ah caught his shifty een, jist fer a second, it's funny cos ah had jist been thinkin aboot him, this gorgeous man that had caught me eye that very day at the bus-stop an then that ah saw again in the store jist a matter o hours since an ah wis thinkin o thae furtively keen een dartin aboot twinklin an flashin like diamonds an his soft wavy hair, jist a bit too long, jist cryin oot fer ma hands tae get run through it, an here he wis, jist brushin past me ootside the toilets at the dancin so ah gies up ma place in the line of course an ah follaes him back through tae the main hall an wid ye credit it he's vanished again, nae sign o him onywhere an so ah'm up n doon an ah'm oan ma third lap o the hall tryin tae find him when ah sees ma pal so ah goes up tae her an ah'm laughin by this time, laughin jist a bit hysterically as ah mind it an ah goes up tae her an ah'm tellin her aw aboot this man an how ah've got tae find him an how it's absolute fate we're meant tae be th'gither an aw aboot his lovely twinklin een an his lovely wavy hair when ah look roond an he's suddenly standin right next tae me, right there at ma shooder, cos here's the thing, he'd jist been tae the bar tae buy ma pal a drink, she drinks gin an tonic, an they'd only jist met in the line at the door tae get in so ah gies him a big grin an says Hullo! It's me! Me! D'ye no recognise me? an gies him a big kiss oan his lovely lips, ye should've seen the look oan his face...
Course that wis many years ago now but when ah look at him lyin ower there, flat-oot, lyin oan the settee, ah can still see that look, an thae beautiful furtively-twinklin shifty een...

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

What if we're looking at Holyrood the wrong way round..?

I've watched the setting up and positioning of the Independence for Scotland Party (ISP) with some interest, and fully sympathise with their ultimate aim of Independence for Scotland. As an SNP supporter and voter for the best part of 40 years this is of course what I wish to see more than anything, but have also watched, with some horror, the diversion of the SNP's energy and momentum by an entryist claque of Student Union types, a devotion to identity politics and a growing deafness to its own supporters, voters and even its own members as they try to avert an electoral disaster.

But the SNP's woes are for another time, what's on my mind today is the discussion playing out around the Holyrood parliament's electoral system. I see lots of exhortations to use my '2nd vote' wisely, rather than waste it on the SNP for no list seats, or waste it on the Unionists by giving them list seats. This is based on the SNP's predicted success on the '1st vote', in the constituencies, and has some roots in the "2nd vote Green" campaign of 2003 which led to our Rainbow Parliament of that year. The idea that some might call gaming the system but which is anyway creatively using both our votes to produce a particular desired outcome... kinda like normal voting, but doing it with a wink.

But what if we have the votes the wrong way round? What if we look at the 'list vote' as the 1st vote, and the constituency vote as the '2nd vote'? What if we *first vote* for the party we want to form the government, or be represented in the government, and *second vote* for which individual candidate on offer we want to represent us in the parliament. I don't think it says '1st vote' and '2nd vote' on the polling forms.

Then, when counting, we look at the parliament in terms of numbers of MSPs elected first, then which constituency candidates fill which seats before allocating the top-ups from the list. I'm not talking about how we actually count the actual votes cast, we still do that as today, but in terms of how we think about our votes. Instead of thinking all those SNP 'list votes' are wasted after electing the constituency candidates, think of those votes as justifying the constituency candidates their seats (perhaps because individually they don't justify their own election, but that's another story) and the remaining seats allocated at top-up are justified by the aim of the system which is to deliver a proportional parliament.

This may not sound like good news to the ISP (or Greens/SSPetc) because given the choice between a minority or majority SNP government, I think many of those parties' supporters would opt for a majority, it is certainly in reach as 2011 showed. Digression, it rips my knitting to hear that the AMS was designed to prevent the SNP ever getting a majority, when that was never true, but it is a system designed to prevent any party getting a majority *without a majority of votes*, it's a proportional system ffs, it says it on the box!

But, designed to prevent it or not, majority government IS possible (cf 2011) and a government with the energy of the one Alex Salmond led is an attractive thought. The idea of a minority government similar to the present one with a smaller party 'pushing them on' while simultaneously opposing them on fundamental policy issues less so...

I fear we undermine the proportional system we have in Holyrood when we talk of MSPs elected on the list having any less right to be there, and I fear we do that when we talk of them being elected on our '2nd vote', so what if that's our '1st vote'..?

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Strugglin along...

Ah thought o cryin this post "Ma Struggle", but ye ken whit folk are like, there's nae irony these days, so ah cried it Strugglin along, cos that's whit ah'm daein, like maist folk... jist daein away... ye see it aw... ah'm existin...

Whit ah am strugglin wi is aw the thoughts an ideas, millin aroond, swillin aroond, an generally messin up ma heid. This isnae jist tae dae wi coronavirus, ah've had some o these thoughts fer decades, weel intae last century, they're less like thoughts noo an mair like part o ma brain, part o ma wirin. As a fer instance ah'll tell ye aboot yin o ma thoughts, then ah'll hae a coffee...

A song came oan ma Spotify yesterday, it's yin o ma Earwax songs, it's oan ma permanent playlist if ye like. Ah've liked it fae when it came oot, it goes...

"In a little while from now, if I'm not feeling any less sour,
I promise myself to treat myself and visit a nearby tower,
and climbing to the top, I'll throw myself off,
in an effort to, make clear to whom-ever what it's like when you're shattered..."

It struck me recently that when that song came oot we were oan a caravan holiday in St Andrews. Ah used tae take masel away fer a wander up tae the Cathedral, an pay 2 an a half new pence tae climb St Rule's Tower, get a braw view o St Andrews, an contemplate throwin masel off. Ah checked the dates, ah wis nine year auld at the time. Ah wis becomin aware o ma sexuality at the time, the thrills ah wis gettin fae jist even seein men were startin tae ring alarm bells in ma wee heid. Mind, this wis 1972.

Since then, any tower, any brig, any clifftop, ah'm aye thinkin it, ah'm aye wonderin if ah could, if ah should. Ah've climbed towers an crossed brigs an scrambled up cliffs, jist tae hae that thought. Scott Monument, Dean Brig, the Cat's Nick, you name it ah've been up it wonderin if ah could...

There's a normal human experience in there, we aw ponder oor mortality at some point, we aw think aboot how close we've come tae the edge, how we risk things an how we protect oorsels, but some o us live wi that constantly, it becomes automatic. Ye hae tae consciously stop yerself fae haein thae automatic negative thoughts. An it's no jist the jumpin aff high places, there's railways, there's tablets, there's knifes, there's Portobello Beach... there's suicide opportunities an ideas aw roond us, we live wi them. Ah've lived wi thae ideas, aw ma days.

Whit ah don't always (an ah emphasise the *always* here) think helps is talkin aboot them. Ah think it helped me no talkin aboot them, it helped me fer long enough that ye jist didnae talk aboot them, ye kept them tae yersel. Ye got oan wi livin. Some folk hae aye lived wi suicidal ideas, occasionally, intermittently, or constantly. Ah huvnae jist held them masel, ah've worked a career in helpin folk wi them an aw, ah know a bit aboot ma subject, an ah get that it helps some folk tae talk aboot them, that that resolves them fer some people, and that it's a subject that's suffered fae no bein talked aboot honestly, that's been hidden under a dark veil, but like any subject it can be talked aboot too much tae the exclusion o other subjects, an worse, it can be weaponised tae push other viewpoints, an that helps naebody.

Ah know it's an auld-fashioned take, but ah jist want tae make the point if it's no obvious awready, we're currently wanderin aboot in a world that's fu o risk an fu o the risk o death, we're aw contemplatin the subject whether we're talkin aboot it or no, but some o us hae been quietly contemplatin it aw oor days...

The song -

Gilbert O'Sullivan - Alone Again (Naturally)

(It got tae Number 3 in the Hit Parade oan ma 9th birthday...)

Right, ah'm away tae pit the kettle oan...

Monday, 23 March 2020

First it came for the Chinese...

First it came for the Chinese, and I did not take care of my hand hygiene at every opportunity-

   Because I was not Chinese.

Then it came for the South Koreans, and I did not distance myself socially and stop visiting bars-

   Because I was not South Korean.

Then it came for the Italians, and I did not lock everything down and shelter in place-

   Because I was not Italian.

And then it came for me-

   And there was no-one left to do anything and nothing left to do but wait...

After Pastor Martin Niemoller

Monday, 10 February 2020

Who the hell is Sophia Pangloss?

Who the hell is Sophia Pangloss? I have asked myself that question many times over many years, and it's a question I think needs answered at last.

She is the voice in my head
She is my mother speaking
She was, and is, a joke
She's a nobody
She's a voice
She is my voice
She's crabbit
She's witty
She's a maven
She's a storyteller
She's a history, she's a herstory, she's a mystory...

I have two voices in my head, one speaks Scots and the other English. On Twitter I originally tried to only tweet in Scots, though the English slipped through, and after the Indyref loss it thrust itself through and I lost my Scots voice for a while. Now, Sophia tweets in Scots, the language she learned at hame, Stuart tweets in English, the language he learned at school. When I speak publicly on Twitter, I picture two audiences; there's Us (us Scots that ken whit ah'm oan aboot), and there's Us and everybody else on Twitter. It depends on who I mean when I mean I want it to mean something to someone...

My mother is my heart, you know that. She gave me her history to add to mine, she taught me more than she'll ever know. Some of my voice is an echo of hers, I heard her, I want you to hear her.

Sophia Pangloss arrived in this life at the back end of last century, back in the days of "a/s/l?", which out of pure contrariness I had taken to answering "twohundredandtwentysomething/f/lithuania"... Then there's Tragedy Day by Gareth Roberts... Candide by Voltaire... they all collided and Sophia was born. Much drink and many spliffs were involved. The Doctor was Dr Pangloss and the Doctor's Daughter had to have a name. Having spent much of the 1980's resisting the pressure to have a 'camp name' which would probably have been Sophia (I think it was first suggested by Fiona Scone in 1985 though it may have been by the Marchioness of Newington...), that seemed the obvious choice, Sophia's sophisticated, but she's not really, she's a sophist, but she's not, really...

Pangloss means 'all' and 'tongue' (or does it mean pang and loss..?) She's all tongue, she's all talk, she's glib, she's universal, she's all about the talk.

In short she's a classy thinker that talks shit about anything and everything.

She's a biddy that bides up a stair. She's the ghostly face in the window of a block of tenements in a photo taken in the eighteen hundreds in Duke Street, she's the camp follower of the Edinburgh Mob, she's the windae-hinger an sometime windae-slinger, she's Isa, she's Cissie, she's Dolly, she's Molly, she's the wumman that never had and never has a voice.

She's my voice. That's new. I never felt I could write. I did well at primary school, but it became apparent in the Academy that English wasn't my strongest subject. I shudder at the thought of Miss Shedden... I still blame her for having to start wearing specs as a teen, sitting up at midnight struggling with her English homework assignments... it was the subject I did worst in at O and Higher grades. I was a scientist back then. Went through my life being hampered by that feeling, that I couldn't write, until I wrote in Scots. That felt daring, a laugh, honest, sharp. I could write (I think) when I never thought I could before. Speaking as Sophia is me speaking as a Scot, in the language I was taught not to use at school, in Scotland.

Sophia's crabbit, she disnae suffer fools at aw, gladly or otherwise, she's hard in the nose. She says whit needs tae be said. She cuts the crap.

She thinks she's funny.

I have always loved learning. Always. My favourite books in our house were Arthur Mees's 10 volume Family Encyclopaedia. I read them all. I admit, that has given me some very outdated mental pictures of the world and I have spent a lifetime correcting his errors, but that's ok too. Learn. So, a lot of Sophia's work has been collecting, curating, hunting for the lead‐ins to get folk interested and help them learn. Understand.

Linlithgow will always be where my history-soaked heart will lie, there's a spot in the Palace that is forever mine, but Edinburgh being where I settled and made my nest, it was an obvious place to start. When I read the tale of a Woman For Sale I wanted to tell that story, and that's how shootinfaetheshin started. It's a way to tell some stories people won't know, my own included...

Storytelling has meaning, we all learn through stories, from Wee Willie Winkie to Red Dead Redemption. We all want to sit at someone's knee and hear a story that paints beautiful pictures in our heads. I want to be the knee.

If we don't learn from history, we don't learn. Understand.

So who the hell is Stuart?

He's Scottish, born in Bangour, grew up in Linlithgow, lives in Leith, where Honeyman Old stepped ashore after being cleared from his home in Sutherland in the 18th century, at the start of the Clearances, carrying the Old name I still carry 6 generations later...

This Old had to carry that name behind three popular and successful siblings through school, (to be followed by another, just as successful) competing to be heard all the time, luckily getting the grades to choose between a future in law or medicine (that was the sum total of 70s careers guidance) so I moved from a West Lothian council flat to Edinburgh Medical School (one of 3 'cooncil hoosers' out of 186 in our year), but I really moved to escape from Linlithgow, where growing up gay in the 60s and 70s had been utterly exhausting, I had a major depressive episode after 2 years at Medical School, (I speak as a trained professional, looking back... but at the time no-one noticed) and of course, I came out as gay at the same time. The two were connected. That was a Very Difficult Time, I came out the same week the first GRIDS cases were being reported in the Gay News. That, plus the article on fist-fucking had me flapping that closet door open and shut more times than Goldie Hawn on a purple one, my coming out was a bumpy one, like most people's... Gay Switchboard helped me out here, a lot... my family, not so much...

Then, and I consider this the luxury of my life, I was allowed 2 further years of fully-supported first-class Scottish university education to compensate for my failure to break the class ceiling, which I put to good use 'expanding my horizons' and becoming the person I am. This involved a lot of sex, drugs and politics... and some rock'n'roll yes, but mainly electronic dance music, and eventually another crisis, playing out in my twenties the adolescent love-games I always felt denied in my teens... wish I hadn't bothered, that kind of drama only leads to... well yeah, it led to there one night, that long dark night of the soul... and I'm writing this so, that all worked out okay... in the end...

From that low point things had to turn around, and they did. After my drop-out period I was bartending in a local bar for a colony of artisans, pink triangle proudly worn behind the bar at all times, happily settling down to domestic bliss in pre-marriage days, never feeling the need in my relationships for a certificate from the State, just for the State to stay out of my relationships. I remember sitting one quiet night staffing the Gay Switchboard phones and my colleague saying "Have you ever thought of becoming a psychiatric nurse?" (don't ya just love the old-fashioned language I use?) So I did...

33 years later I have retired. I feel I have balanced my scales, I have returned at least what this society has given me. My career, mostly in elderly acute hospital admission and community psychiatric nursing, was clean and fulfilling, I spent 8 years on Switchboard, befriended and supported many gay men, trained many new volunteers and organised the first ever Scottish Gay and Lesbian Switchboards conference. I built myself a home with two beautiful Scottish men and six beautiful Scottish cats over the years (at different times, I'm not an old cat-woman, yet...). I built myself a private life and closed the stair door...

Reader, that's who the hell Sophia Pangloss is.